Britons may have to brace themselves for a shortage of tea, due to disruption of trade routes linked to Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea.
Retail giant Sainsbury’s has warned shoppers that there are “nationwide” problems that could affect the availability of the nation’s beloved product.
A sign in one Sainsbury’s store read: “We are experiencing supply issues affecting the nationwide supply of black tea. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be back in full supply soon.”
Whilst the supermarket confirmed it was an “industry-wide issue”, they stressed that the problems are temporary and should not significantly impact customers.
A retail giant has warned of a nationwide disruption shortage of tea
Despite this, supply chain experts have said that prices could increase as a result of the reduced volume of stock.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “There is temporary disruption to some black tea lines, but the impact on consumers will be minimal as retailers are not expecting significant challenges.”
The disruption is understood to be related to Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, which has caused most shipping firms using the trade route to redirect their shipments.
The new route, which instead sends products through Cape of Good Hope at the foot of Africa, adds approximately 14 days to the journey.
A Sainsbury’s store put up the sign but said that it is a ‘nationwide issue’
The increased travel time also leads to an increase in costs.
Tea is mainly produced in Asia and East Africa, with China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya producing about three-quarters of tea globally.
Due to attacks in the Red Sea over the past two months, freight shipments from these countries have been heavily interrupted.
Sparsh Agarwal, owner of various tea gardens in Darjeeling, India said that tea deliveries were being delayed because of the disruption.
“We sent shipments to the US and Europe two weeks ago, but they are still in Mumbai port and have not been picked up yet,” he told the i newspaper in December.
Marco Forgione, the director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, said: “No amount of inventory management in the short term was able to deal with the immediate issues of that disruption.”
“The disruption will continue for many months,” he added.
GB News has reached out to Sainsbury’s for comment.